Nepal
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Ana-Maria Lupu: The Journey of Self-discovery in Nepal

Ana is one of the most genuine people I know and one of my best and dearest friends. We have met 10 years ago and since then, no matter our journeys, our ascensions or descents, our friendship grew stronger and stronger and I know that no matter where life takes us, we will still take that trip to the seaside or mountains and get lost in stories and laughter! We will listen to Pink Martini and call ourselves cherie while sipping that glass of rosé, swapping memories and creating new ones!

Lara & Ana,
Vama Veche, 2014

She has recently been to Nepal and I remember sending me one day a photo from up in the air, telling me: “Cherie, I’m back! I have so much to tell you!”

We met in the Old Town in Bucharest and I was seeing for the first time a different Ana, with a new light in her eyes and such a beautiful energy! She told me that this trip has changed her and she started describing this beautiful world…

“Cherie, I want to write about this! Let’s do an interview!”, I said.

Her eyes opened wide and she smiled…

From Kathmandu to Pokhara, you had the opportunity to explore Nepal and see these beautiful places from the eyes of the locals. What was the highlight of this trip?

Ana: Every area that I have visited has its own flavors. The landscapes are wonderful, it’s really a spectacular place if you enjoy trekking, nature and wildlife. 

Paragliding in Pokhara
Photo by Ana -Maria Lupu

There is also a spiritual wealth that you will find while visiting Nepal. People choose the simple style of life and maybe this is one of the reasons they managed to be so connected with their spirituality.

People at Bouddhanath Stupa,
Photo by Rafa Mincu

I can say the whole trip was a wonderful experience for me, getting in touch with very different environments and climates, starting with the overly crowded Kathmandu, then going to Bhaktapur and seeing the beautiful architecture and the temples. The majority of the buildings are still in reconstruction after the earthquake from 2015. 

Bhaktapur,
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

Then going into the jungle, the National Reservation of Chitwan and going on safari, arriving in Pokhara – the most touristic city in Nepal, trekking into the Himalayas until we arrived to the Australian Basecamp and then doing rafting on the Trishuli River on our way back to Kathmandu. 

Tell me more about Pokhara – this gateway to the Himalayas!

A: In Pokhara you will find people from all over the world, most of them climbers or trekkers, lots of bars, discos, restaurants and many shops with all kinds of equipment used for going to the mountains. It’s a whole industry going on out there, next to the souvenir shops and supermarkets. 

Pokhara is situated near a wonderful lake, offering a mesmerizing view on the Annapurna peaks. Lots of colorful boats are lying on its calm surface, giving a special charm for the eyes of the visitors. On sunny days you can see the mountains so close that it seems you can reach your hand and touch them. 

Pokhara,
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

This is indeed like a gateway to the Himalayas, as it is a starting point for various hiking trails.

This is also a very popular destination for various adventure sports such as paragliding, bungee jumping and zipline. 

In fact, here you can find the world’s longest and most extreme zipline! Apart from the spectacular view that you get to see, this has a vertical drop of 600 m and is 1.8 km long. 

Unfortunately when I arrived in Pokhara it was windy and cloudy and this continued also when we started the trek towards the Australian Basecamp, on the second day. We had also some rain, fog and could not see all the beauty of the mountains like we would like to. 

Even so, the time spent there was very pleasant, we enjoyed local food, walking around and exploring the town. 

Just before we leave Pokhara the sun announced its presence, really early in the morning. Weather was suddenly perfect, all the fog was gone, so I got the chance to admire the beautiful view.

Paragliding in Pokhara,
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

What was the biggest challenge you had to face on this trip?

A: The biggest challenge was to be in front of this very different environment and to adapt to it. I was feeling like an alien for the first 2 days, but this quickly changed when I have started seeing things in a different light, being curious about this different culture and wanting to see more of the breathtaking views, so after changing my perspective, I have started to fully enjoy this new culture!

The traffic was excruciating in Kathmandu. I must admit that I wouldn’t have the courage to drive over there. It took me some time to see how exactly you proceed in order to cross the street and get to the other side as there were no crosswalks or traffic lights. Or any road signs, in fact. It seemed like a – somehow organized – chaos where everybody was going in every direction. It was better for me not to sit in the very front side of the minibus, as I was constantly freaking out that we’re going to hit something/somebody. 

Kathmandu
Photo by Rafa Mincu

There was also very much dust in the air and sometimes it was difficult to breathe. Many people are wearing masks on the street because of the pollution. 

But all this got easier with every day. Especially when your focus changes and is directed towards other areas, like nature, local people, traditions and the beauty of this fascinating place.

What was the funniest moment?

A: The funniest moment(s), I would say, because this is a whole series of moments, starts with me asking for “not spicy food” in Dubai’s airport.

I am – well, more accurately – I was not used to eating spicy. I enjoy all kinds of foods and tried many – some strange, others pretentious – but I have always avoided spicy food.

Well, here I was in Dubai’s airport in the middle of the night, hungry as a bear and the only edible food seemed to me a self service restaurant with some traditional dishes. I head there and ask for anything that is not spicy. “Of course!”, the lady said with this huge smile on her face! But, apparently our concepts of “spicy” were very very different. I don’t even remember what it was, but the only thing that wasn’t spicy on my plate was the rice. “Great!”, I mumbled and looked around me to find the next best thing, but only McDonald’s or donuts seemed far from “spicy” 🙂

Little did I know that this will continue for the following days, in the same exact manner. On the other hand, what was the point of searching for European food in the menus? I was in this beautiful place and wanted to try the local food, so I stuck to that. Pasta was just boring.

Local food
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

In the end I learned what foods were less spicy and what combinations of flavors I enjoy. I ended up appreciating it and broadening my culinary tastes.

When did you feel the biggest adrenaline rush?

A: That’s for sure when I went rafting on the Trishuli river. We did a 3 hours ride on this river and it had rained just a day before, so the water was really muddy. I fell off the boat into that muddy water, but I was lucky and didn’t get hurt. 

Rafting on Trishuli

Definitely I want to do this again! I loved the way it felt riding the waves and the way we all had to work together as a team to keep the boat going in the right direction. I could have skipped that fall but hey, you don’t always get what you want, right? :))

What was the most beautiful place you have seen in Nepal?

A: It’s hard to take one experience or one place only out of the context and say: ”This was the most beautiful place I’ve seen”. Actually I think I lived it from the beginning until the end as a whole experience. The beauty and wilderness of nature and being so close to it awakened something in me, I came back home and find myself to be more creative, spontaneous and more alive than ever before. 

Chitwan
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

Each place I visited had its own beauty and particularity. I loved the jungle, walking around the tall trees and all that exotic vegetation, the silence and calmness of the river while having a canoe trip amongst the crocodiles. I loved also the safari, even though I breathe and ate the largest amount of dust one can ever imagine :))) 

I loved the mountains, the spontaneous party we had with the people from Australian Basecamp, tourists and locals all together. All these moments together made this trip special to me.

Ana in Chitwan
Photo by Oana Corina Moldovean
Chitwan
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

If your trip would have been a film, what soundtrack would it have?

A: Somehow it reminded me of this artist and song 🙂 ZAZ – Je veux

What are the two things that you miss from Nepal?

A: I miss the mountains and the rum. Even though it was pretty hard for me to do the trekking until the Australian Basecamp, I somehow managed to arrive at the destination. I had only a glimpse of the mountains from the Australian Basecamp, because of the fog. The following day the weather was nice and I could enjoy more the astonishing landscape. 

View from Australian Basecamp
Photo by Georgi Coroiu

Also there I got the chance to meet Sherpas, the people living in the Himalayas. Usually they are mountain guides, because of their excellent climbing skills and their capacity to adapt easily to very high altitudes (8000+ m). It seems that their bodies are extremely well adapted to living at very high altitudes. There are also some studies that prove that there is actually a genetic adaptation for living to these altitudes. This is called the “super-athlete gene”.

Ana with the Sherpa friend at Australian Base Camp

And yes, the Khukri Rum, you shouldn’t miss that if you go to Nepal 😀

Khukri Rum
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

Do you feel that this journey has changed you in any way?

A: Definitely! I chose to do this trip at the right moment. I wanted to do it since last year, in a totally different context, together with my husband. At that time things didn’t work out and even if we tried our best to make it last, we ended up separating. Unfortunately, this separation happened right during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which made things even harder than they already were…

I took my time before letting know everyone around – loved ones, friends, colleagues, relatives, etc. – about the whole situation. I let them know gradually, when I felt I was emotionally ready for it.

You see, people rarely understand what you’re going through when decide to have a divorce, especially in Romania. You end up receiving advice you didn’t ask for, surprisingly seeing others telling you what’s best for you and that “yeah, you’ll get over it and find somebody else, you still look good/young/beautiful” (Wow! I don’t even comment on this one…) Well, there was indeed a whole range of reactions and I felt that in order to be able to manage them properly for myself, I needed some more time to put myself back together and find my balance. So, I have waited…

I spent a lot of time with my 14 years old dog and with few close friends that were authentic and supportive. 

Meanwhile, I took the decision to do this trip anyway, now all by myself. 

I went there with a group, but in the same time alone, because I didn’t know anyone before arriving at the departure gate at the airport. That was a new experience for me. My phone was out of service during all this time, because I forgot to activate roaming for Asia. I didn’t miss it so much, only when I almost got lost and couldn’t contact anybody. That was weird. 

Apart from that I think it was beneficial for me to be able to disconnect  from the environment I was living in back home. What I was not prepared for and I must admit it took me completely by surprise was to connect with nature the way I did. I never thought I could feel so happy and complete just by being close to nature. 

I came back with a certain freedom of heart and soul that I managed to keep with me until now. 

I can’t say that it helped me overcome my personal situation at home. But surely it helped me relax, put things into perspective and realize that I took the right decision for myself.

What about the traditions and local customs? What impressed you and why?

A: The Pashupatinath Temple impressed me a lot. This is a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site and it is here where the cremation ceremony of Hindu people takes place. It is situated on the Bagmati riverside, which is considered to be a holy river. 

Pashupatinath Temple
Photo by Rafa Mincu

There are three types of funeral ceremonies in Nepal: cremation, burial as in Christianity, or “funeral in the sky” – a ritual practiced by the Bonpo people who live up in the mountains and offer their bodies to the vultures. The most common is cremation. 

At Pashupatinath this happens in open-air, while tourists can watch the whole process from across the river. After the body is incinerated, the ashes are send away into the river. 

Cremation at Pashupatinath
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

Cremation of a person’s dead body is supposed to free the soul of any attachments to the body it resided in. 

There is a certain effect it has upon you contemplating death from such a small distance and witnessing this ceremony. It’s almost visceral, you can sense everything in your body. It is the awareness of complete destruction of the body that had this effect and also the smell that’s all over in the air.

I found it interesting because you are contemplating at the same time the frailty and finitude of life and the enormous privilege you have by living it. Sometimes we tend to forget this too easily and take every day for granted.  

You will meet also the “Sadhus” people around the temples.

Sadhu,
Photo by Rafa Mincu

These are holy men that renounced at all their material possessions and their whole life is dedicated to Lord Shiva and spiritual enlightenment. They paint their faces and bodies and wear colorful clothes.

Sadhus,
Photo by Rafa Mincu
Sadhu,
Photo by Rafa Mincu

Another special moment for me was entering a Monastery near the Boudhanath temple and arriving there right in the middle of a ceremony. So we participated at this ceremony and received blessings from the monks. I still keep the red thin thread I received there and I wore around my neck during the holiday 🙂 

Prayer Wheels
Photo by Rafa Mincu

Boudhanath Stupa is also part of UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

We are all in a pursuit of happiness… What was your happiest moment?

A: It was in the morning before leaving Pokhara, when it was finally sunny outside and I woke up and saw the mountains outside of the hotel window. I got dressed, packed my luggage in no time and went out near the lake to have a walk and moment with myself there. Even though I was in a hurry, that was awesome! 

Pokhara
Photo by Ana-Maria Lupu

In the end, I can say that probably each person has his own subjective experience over a destination such as Nepal. It’s a country with warm and welcoming people, probably one of the most beautiful places in this world, full of adventure, spirituality and wilderness. Traveling to Nepal made me appreciate life maybe a little bit more and enjoy the present moment. 

Portrait of a Child,
Photo by Georgi Coroiu

If you wish to visit Nepal, I recommend you do some research in advance to see when it’s the best time to visit it. You should also be aware of potential risks, for example you will need special evacuation insurance if you want to go in the mountains. It might be a good idea to plan your trip with a local tourism agency and make sure they are reliable and have good online reviews. 

As for myself, I feel that there are so many more things for me to discover in Nepal, so I plan to return 😉

That sounds wonderful, cherie! Thank you so much for sharing your amazing experience and your journey! Follow Ana on Instagram at:

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2 Comments

  1. Very interesting stories !

    1. Ana-Maria Lupu says:

      Thank you! Many thanks Basu and Nepal Social Treks for the good coordination and logistics of this trip.

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